Feeling anxious is actually normal. Everyone experiences anxiety. You don’t want to completely get rid of it because it’s a way our body protects us from danger, plus you really can’t “get rid” of it either. But when feeling nervous stops you from working, doesn’t allow you to stay still long enough to focus, and/or causes problems in your relationships, you have a problem with anxiety.
Physically, you can feel shaky, get butterflies in your stomach, have sweaty hands, your heart speeds up, difficulty breathing, and you might get a little light headed.
Emotionally, you worry, feel irritable, is hard to stay still, have trouble falling or staying asleep and anticipate something going wrong.
This usually happens when you’re doing something out of the normal. It could be the first day of work or school, going on a date, going somewhere new, talking in front of people or taking a test. Basically there’s a reason to be nervous. Even professional public speakers and athletes get nervous before performing, this is completely normal.
Also, when we go through tough times or major changes in life, like loosing a job, a break up, death of a loved one, getting a medical diagnosis or moving to a new place, it’s normal to feel anxiety.
But when these symptoms don’t seem to go away even after the event ended, or when there’s no reason to feel nervous, this is a sign of something more serious. The following are different types of anxiety disorders. Remember, only a licensed professional can give you a diagnosis.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Generalized anxiety disorder is chronic, exaggerated worry about everyday life. You waste a lot of time and mental energy just worrying about different random things that most likely will never happen. It’s very difficult to control these negative thoughts.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Feeling intense fear in everyday social interactions. Being around a lot of people causes irrational fears (such as being afraid that you’d do something wrong and feel embarrassed) The intense fear can trigger a panic attack.
Feeling sudden and intense fear. Physical symptoms include chest pain, heart racing, feeling dizzy, shortness of breath and upset stomach. Many people will go to desperate measures to avoid having an attack, including avoiding going to certain places. Panic attacks can be painful and some people think they’re having a heart attack. Here’s my post on the difference between a heart attack and a panic attack.
Agoraphobia is a fear of being outside or otherwise being in a situation from which one either can’t escape or from which escaping would be difficult or humiliating. Being in these situations causes panic attacks.
A phobia is when certain places, events or objects create intense fear or panic. In order to avoid panic, a person will do anything to avoid getting triggered. The attempt to control this fear can take over someones life.
There are over 100 different types of phobias.
More common in young children and after a traumatic event. This is a severe form of clinginess to someone they feel safe with.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is an anxiety disorder where someone experiences extreme anxiety, flashbacks, nightmares, and other symptoms of anxiety after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event.
Selective mutism (when someone stops talking, usually in children and when someone is in shock) and Trichotillomania (hair pulling) are ways to cope with severe forms of anxiety.
All of these disorders can be treated effectively with psychotherapy. When symptoms are too difficult to handle, medication could help.
About the author.
Liza J Alvarado is a professional counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, adults, and Spanish speaking families in the Lehigh Valley, PA area.